New Mexico locals love the spicy native food that Rancho de Chimayó Restaurante has been serving since 1965. On the eve of its 50th birthday, this landmark restaurant located just 35 minutes from Santa Fe has something to celebrate.
In May 2014, James Beard Award-winning authors Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s new cookbook The Rancho de Chimayó Cookbook: The Traditional Cooking of New Mexico 50th Anniversary Edition was released to commemorate this auspicious occasion. It’s a colorful collection of the eatery’s beloved recipes.
Rancho de Chimayó occupies a historic former home on the High Road to Taos, a little over a half hour northeast of Santa Fe. It’s a scenic drive, and the small hamlet of Chimayó has lots to discover. Work up an appetite exploring this historic village known for weaving, chile growing and healing miracles, before heading to the restaurant to fuel up.
Stuffed sopapilla, waiting to be eaten — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Rancho de Chimayó serves the local Northern New Mexican regional cuisine, also called Norteño. Recipes used here have been handed down through generations of the Jaramillo family. The restaurant uses local ingredients whenever possible, and just about everything is made from scratch.
New Mexican food is built around the three foods – squash, corn and beans – that the Spanish found the Pueblo people cultivating when they arrived over 400 years ago. Chile arrived with the Spanish colonists.
Favorites here include carne adovada, pork cooked in red chile; posole, a dried corn kernel made into a sort of stew; tamales; and sopapillas, puffed fried dough either eaten with the meal or as a dessert. They're great topped with honey.
Start your meal with the signature Chimayó Cocktail, a concoction mixing apple cider and tequila, or the popular Prickly Pear margarita.
Ristras hanging from the eave at Rancho de Chimayo — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
The unofficial state question - “Red or green?" - refers to what color chile you want your food smothered in. If you want to try both and sound like a local, ask for “Christmas.” But ask for a taste before ordering: the combination can be hot. Dried red chiles are picked right from ristras hanging from the rafters in front of the restaurant. Green chile, roasted and peeled, is used fresh in season or frozen the rest of the year.
Save room for dessert. The menu has local favorites such as natillas, traditional vanilla pudding; flan, a house specialty; and Toasted Piñon Mocha Mousse.
Dine in the sunroom at Rancho de Chimayo — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Rancho de Chimayó was started by Arturo and Florence Jaramillo in the 19th-century home of Arturo's grandparents. It was a labor of love, popular from the day it opened. People made the journey into the mountains from Santa Fe and even Albuquerque to sample the authentic New Mexican dishes.
In 2008, tragedy struck; a fire destroyed the kitchen and part of the restaurant. It took over a year to update, rebuild and reopen, but the intrepid Florence Jaramillo, who runs the restaurant on her own these days, did it. This octogenarian is in the restaurant almost every day making sure it runs like a well-oiled motor.
Take a ride to Chimayó to dine at Rancho de Chimayó and explore this historic town. Dining on traditional Northern New Mexican foods in a historic atmosphere will be a memory you’ll treasure.